10 Ways Dealerships Can Work With Schools to Attract Future Technician Talent

Recruiting technicians is no easy task. Throwing a quick ad up on Indeed may bring in a few applicants, but savvy dealerships understand the importance of a long-term recruiting strategy involving working closely with schools.

Getting involved with instructors and students helps dealers build a pipeline of young, up-and-coming talent. Unfortunately, a recent survey showed only 33% of technicians reported their shop works with local schools, so there’s room for improvement.

Here are some simple things your dealership can do to get involved with schools and attract future technicians.

How Your Shop Can Work with Local Schools to Attract Technicians

1. Start Now 

Do not call up instructors on graduation day asking for their most promising technicians. If you do this, you’re way too late. By this time, new graduates generally have a good idea of where they’re going to work (if they aren’t working there already). Shops need to have an ongoing presence with students from the day they enter an automotive program to the day they graduate in order to be considered for employment.

2. Do Your Research

Take initiative! Don’t wait for schools to call you—reach out to them first. Call local instructors, research their programs, and check out sites like WrenchWay School Connect or social media to understand their needs and how you can help.

3. Provide Hands-On Training or Mentorship Programs For Students

Classroom learning has its limitations, so offering hands-on experience can solidify a student’s decision to pursue a career in automotive. Consider letting students come to the shop a few times a week for hands-on training. Pair them with a technician who can mentor them. This not only gives students valuable experience, but also gives your technicians a chance to show off their leadership skills.

4. Offer Up Shop Tours

When students visit a shop, it gives them a firsthand look at the environment they’d be working in. Listening to instructors discuss shop camaraderie and new equipment is one thing, but actually seeing and feeling it offers a completely different experience for students. Don’t forget to extend the invitation to parents as well.

5. Donate Tools or Equipment

Many auto programs face challenges in finding equipment for demos and hands-on classroom work. If your shop has the budget or unused supplies, think about donating them to a local school.

Even if a nearby school doesn’t currently have an established auto program, they still might be interested in incorporating it into their curriculum for CTE classes or for automotive clubs.

6. Consider Tool Reimbursement Programs

Tool costs can be a significant hurdle for technicians entering the automotive industry. In a recent survey, 32% of technicians said that one of the biggest industry issues is that shops need to pay for tools or provide an adequate tool allowance. 

To minimize barriers, dealerships need to get involved. They should think about teaming up with local high schools or technical colleges to support students in building their tool collection through a reimbursement program.

7. Host a Parent’s Night

When attracting younger talent to the automotive industry, it is important to have the support of their parents. A recent survey found that 48% of respondents felt their career choices were strongly influenced by their parents, and 40% felt pressured to follow their parents’ career advice.

By organizing a parent’s night, shops can give parents an opportunity to ask questions, explore the facilities, and learn about the lucrative opportunities the automotive industry can offer their child.

8. Get Involved with Community Events

If your community or local colleges host career fairs, make sure your dealership gets involved. It’s crucial to maintain a consistent presence in the community that goes beyond advertising. You want your dealership to be seen as a valuable, active member of the community.

Also consider exploring opportunities like sponsoring local events or teams, speaking at gatherings, volunteering, and more. These are simple and often cost-effective ways to get noticed. Even if the audience isn’t directly related to the automotive industry, they may know someone who would be interested. Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool, so don’t miss out on opportunities to show all of the great things your shop does to support the local community.

9. Join an Advisory Committee

Instructors need representatives from shops and dealerships to join their advisory committees and become active members who regularly attend and participate in the meetings. This is a great way to help instructors keep their curriculum up-to-date and better prepare students for industry. This also gives dealers the opportunity to gain valuable insights from local industry and build lasting relationships with instructors.

10. Just Visit 

Be a familiar face in the classroom! Instructors welcome industry leaders to come in and demonstrate or speak to their classes. Set up a time to drop by the classroom, assist the students (giving the instructor a break), and answer any questions they may have. Don’t forget to bring along that cool new tool or piece of equipment to showcase the high level of technology involved in being a technician.

Start Small & Get Involved with Schools Now

Recruiting technicians isn’t what it used to be 10 years ago. Dealerships need to focus on more of a long-term recruiting strategy—building relationships with schools and getting involved with student technicians before they hit the job market. 

Larger dealerships and OEMs are doing this now. The dealerships that fail to step up and do the same are going to be years behind their competitors. The good news is, working with schools isn’t hard. Simply take some small steps like offering shop tours or joining an advisory committee, and you’re well on your way.

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